DP14391 Democratic Support for the Bolshevik Revolution: An Empirical Investigation of 1917 Constituent Assembly Elections

Author(s): Castaneda Dower, Andrei Markevich
Publication Date: February 2020
Date Revised: June 2020
Keyword(s): Communism, Elections, Popular support, Regime Change, Revolution, Russia
JEL(s): D72, H7, N44, P26
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14391

We analyse the stability of democracy in agrarian societies by exploring cross-district variation in Russian citizens' preferences in 1917 Constituent Assembly elections. After plurality eluded the Bolsheviks, they introduced a dictatorship of the proletariat, which they claimed was necessary until the industrial worker became the median voter. We find that i) proletarians voted pro-Bolshevik; ii) citizens rewarded Bolsheviks for redistributive policies that were antagonistic to the Bolsheviks' long-run development program but were strategically chosen to bolster peasant support; iii) surprisingly, these same policies fuelled proletariat support. The Bolshevik promise of democracy after industrialisation thus already lacked credibility in 1917.